The Caring Heart

with Dr. Joyce

The Animals Will Teach Us

April 2014

“But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee: and the fowls of the air and they shall tell thee: or speak to the earth and it shall teach thee: and the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee.”  (Job 12:7-8)

In doing some library research in preparation for writing this article, I found an incredible amount written about how animals teach us (if we care to listen!)  On and on!  One person, on an e-mail forward, said how dogs teach us to be better people, in ways people don’t teach us.  Volumes have been written about how horses can function as deep healers of people, and seem to have a special spiritual connection to people.  They can “read” us intuitively somehow, and respond likewise.  So, rather than trying to write another fat volume on the topic, I decided to share with you how animals have taught me, hoping you will find a kindred spirit in me.

Thinking back over the years, I am awed by my awareness of how much my animal family has  changed me.  I was raised in a large city, and did not have pets growing up.  Eventually, I moved to an acreage and began gathering animals, for one reason or another, as the years went by.  I’ve had dogs, cats, turkeys, goats, sheep, geese, chickens, and horses.  Most were rescued animals, needing a home.  I made my mistakes along the way, but always tried to do my best for them, given my state of development and insight at any time.  I started out a totally “green” animal caregiver, and after 25 years, I’m sure not green anymore!!

I’m a different person now, in so many ways – a better person – and I know I am better largely because of my animal friends. I’ve had to practice keeping my tone of voice pleasant, gentle, loving, and not too loud, although speaking strictly is necessary sometimes.  I’ve had to practice my touch and handling, always trying to convey warmth, gentleness, soothingness, comfort, and love.  I’ve had to practice being considerate, on and on, day after day, because I want our animal family to be as comfortable and have as enjoyable a life as possible.  For example, if the dogs want to do something, if there is no reason they shouldn’t do it, I let them.  I’ve had to practice, endlessly, reading their cues and their messages to me about what they want or don’t want.  I’ve had to practice putting them first – ahead of “me” – and to get them fed first, and to take them out at night for “poddy” even though I’m exhausted and its cold outside.  When needing vet care, I’ve had to take care of getting them there and nursing illnesses, even though I have oodles of other things pressing to get done, and even though my finances may be strapped at the time.  I’ve had to change my lifestyle in what I eat and how I exercise and rest in order to stay healthy, so I can hopefully outlive them, and so they will never lose their home.  I’ve had to discipline myself to get up early every morning, because my horses are hungry then and their stall needs to be cleaned up. I’ve had to practice being patient, and not venting exasperation, frustration, and anger, when I would have wanted to.  I’ve had to learn better, kinder, and more sensible responses.  I’ve learned to deeply appreciate the warmth and love they lavish on me, knowing my happiness is greatly increased because of their presence.  They rescue me from feeling “down” or upset so many times, too. I’ve become a much more responsible human being because of them, having thought deeply about what is most important, because they need me to.

Continuing on to talk about other areas, I’ve continued to modify my lifestyle to pollute less and conserve more. I’ve trimmed down my purchases and create very little trash, knowing that human trash invariably, sooner or later, ruins animal habitats (oh, the trashed state of the ocean!) and pollutes waterways, killing and maiming so many species.  I wear clothing and other articles entirely out, to avoid waste. I do not purchase fur or other leather goods.  I recycle everything I can (especially those plastic bags). I do not purchase bottled water or soda pop of any kind.  I drive around only where necessary and combine trips to avoid polluting the air, and to save on vehicle repairs.  I keep myself as healthy as possible, and do not take any prescription medications,  Medications do not disappear after ingestion by humans.  They end up in the soil and waterways, killing and damaging wildlife.  We eat no junk, but mostly fruits and veggies, grown right here.
 
So, I believe I am a more effective dispenser of kindness and love than I was during my younger years, in so many ways. My animals have taught me to be more kind, more considerate, and more sensitive, through the days, months, and years I have spent living with them.  What has been incredibly important to me, both in a healing sense and in a fulfillment sense, is their unfailing loyalty, unconditional love, and warm expressiveness.  The dogs are so excited to see me every time I return home from a brief trip somewhere.  Each has her way of showing me that I am so important to them, day after day.  Dog Sierra loves for me to do doggie training exercises with her. Dog Shauna gives me kisses and lays her head on my lap.  Dog Lucy cuddles and snuggles, likes to give kisses too, and looks at me with those big, brown, warm, eyes.

Cat Sparkles jumps up to snooze in my lap when I’m on this computer.  The horses are careful to not hurt or crowd me, and try so hard to work with me.  They take good care of me when I’m on their backs.  My animal family gives me the kind of love people should give one another!!  Listen up, folks!!  Animals are of incredible value – in themselves, and for US!!
 
I’m sure I am not finished improving yet!   Five years from now, I hope I will look back and be aware of yet more positive change that has occurred in me and in my lifestyle.  For example, I plan to embark on a new horse training method which is extremely sensitive to horses’ natural way of communicating, and very gentle, which (I hope and believe) will allow me to develop an even deeper bond with horses Sunny and Belle and allow us to “dance” with one another in close, harmonious responsiveness, living life joyfully, truly together.   
 
I am thinking of the animal movie, “Rusty.”  What a marvelous, kind-hearted movie!   At the end, a main character explains how God put dogs on this earth to teach people how to love. Wow!   From my experience, that is literally true!  If we will just be close to the animals, listen to them, watch them, know about what helps them and what hurts them, we will become more and more like good citizens in God’s Heavenly Kingdom.  We will be taking good care of the earth, the animals, one another, and ourselves.  We will end up saving so many lives, through avoiding harmful habits, by taking in strays in need (all my dogs and my cat are rescues), doing volunteer work, and sending money to animal rescues and environmental organizations.  We will be purchasing groceries and wearing apparel with animal well-being paramount.  We will be good role models to others. What, to me, is really “cool” is that, because my continued, long-term practicing kindness and gentleness to my animal family, I am now very focused on being similarly kinder and more gentle to people, wherever and whenever I can be. Habit change can happen, for the good, even automatically!!

Yes, let the animals teach us.  They will, but we have to watch them, listen to them and be willing to change, change, change, as more areas needing change are revealed to us.  If we really do love them, and if we really do want to be persons suitable for life in The Heavenly Kingdom, we will jump at the chance for such marvelous change, and appreciate animals incredibly!  
 
“In the last few years, science has proven what many have long believed about the transformatory power of animal-human bonding.  Animals not only can make our lives better, but they can make better people of us.”  - Sylvia Paine
 
Copyright 2014 The Caring Heart